The Rule of Three
There is a saying in the dog world (especially the rescue world) called The Rule of Three. This generally explains how a new dog will get adjusted in their new home and environment.
The first three days the dog is getting their bearings and decompressing.
At three weeks, the dog is becoming more aware of the household routines and patterns.
At three months, the dog starts to understand this is his home and new family.
Although this won't be the case for every single dog, generally speaking, this is a good way of better understanding that dogs need time to get adjusted into their new surroundings and lifestyle. Relatable, right?
I bring this up because I want to share a story about our newest dog, Bruce (Bruce Wayne Gonzalez 😉). On Thanksgiving, we had some major breakthroughs, and while I was reflecting on it, I realized that they happened at the three month mark, almost exactly to the day. I thought to myself, "Wow, here's a real life Rule of Three example happening to us!" and I wanted to share.
We adopted Bruce on August 27th of this year, (to read more about our first full week with him, click here), so we at three months since we brought him home. He has already learned so much and has gotten settled in many ways, but he still struggled at night with the TV being on and being able to settle with us on the couch.
I noticed at night Bruce would seem a bit "off", especially when the TV was on anything other than the coffeeshop, smooth jazz, ambience YouTube videos I put on all day. His ears would go way back, his tail would be tight/tucked, he would look up at the TV with furrowed brows, cowering, and then intermittently try to escape the room to run back into his one crate downstairs (a place he feels safe).
So I began training with him on this a little bit each day and he began to improve, but he was definitely still nervous and needing to leave the den and go to his crate after a bit.
Then on Thanksgiving, there was a breakthrough! We were watching a Hallmark movie and all the dogs were in the den with us. For the very first time, Bruce fully relaxed with us on the couch! He wasn't nervous, he showed no signs of wanting to exit the area, and he even looked up at the TV and then proceeded to relax afterwards! He went and cuddled next to Freddie and John and fell asleep at one point. I was almost in tears. It's such a beautiful thing to see your rescue dog finally rest his eyes and know this is his forever home. It was the beginning of finally seeing him relax. From that point on, he has been able to continue to settle with us at night while we watch movies and shows - we are currently rewatching The Office in between Christmas movies. :)
As I write this, it's actually kind of crazy how many other things have "clicked" for Bruce. For example, being able to fall asleep on a bed in the living room without me in said room, voluntarily going inside his play pens to rest and relax, and being confident about jumping into my SUV for a ride. He settles down more quickly these days and has gotten a lot better with Jade and Freddie, in general.
Bruce used to be scared of Jade in certain contexts (he would lightly growl at her if she tried to investigate him and even snapped at her a couple of times when she got too excited running around and would try to engage him in play). Although Jade meant well, I could totally understand Bruce's fear. Here is this creature a million times your size who you still don't fully know, trying to bounce around you and "poking" at you to engage with them. This is something I obviously managed and worked on with them overall, but with time, he has learned she is not a threat. He even had a several moments recently where he went on the bed with Jade. Bruce used to lightly guard some toys/chews/food from Freddie in the beginning and now they play with toys together and Bruce doesn't seem to feel threatened by the dogs' presence if he has a high value item. Now, I also made sure to use lots of management, redirection, and rewards when working on this. Honestly, a lot of it was bonding with Bruce, working with him to learn that our house and the dogs were safe, and frankly, just this time to allow him to get comfortable.
With that being said, it's still early on and we have a lot more to train, work on, and bond over - but I'm just so happy that he is finally seeming more normal. 😂
I wanted to share all of this because having a new dog isn't always all fun and games. Sometimes it gets concerning, frustrating, disappointing, and overwhelming. I have probably broken down crying at least once or twice during the first few weeks with every dog I have had so far. It's important to remember that your dog is trying their best, just as you are. It takes time for all of us to adjust to new situations and get into a better groove.
I think it's important for me to share these real moments with you to help show the not-so-perfect side sometimes. Everyone has challenges they face with their dogs. We are all working on something at some point.
So if you are getting a new dog, have a new dog, or are still working with the dog you have, remember that relationships take time to form, grow, and blossom. It takes time for your dog to understand your home, your family, and your rules. We all need time to adjust and things usually do get better with time - and it gets even better with time and effort.
We are all doing our best, our dogs included. Stick in there. <3
Take care and talk soon!